Apparently an Internet debate has sprung up over Dennis Blair’s speech to the Aspen Security Forum. These articles largely gloss over the surface without addressing the core of Blair’s remarks, instead focusing on Pakistan or why America should get out of the Middle East and, therefore, use drones to stay out. Where these drones are headed - Yemen and Somalia - become lost in the spin.
“Pull back on unilateral actions by the United States, except in extraordinary circumstances,” President Barack Obama’s first Director of National Intelligence told CBS’s Lesley Stahl. “I think we need to change — in those three countries — in a dramatic way. We’re alienating the countries concerned, because we’re treating countries just as places where we go attack groups that threaten us. We are threatening the prospects for long-term reform raised by the Arab Spring … which would make these countries capable and willing allies who could in fact knock that threat down to a nuisance level.”
Taken at face value and Blair sounds more logical than any current administration official. However we do not believe that his remarks are genuine, but a manufactured counterweight by Aspen Institute and the White House, which enjoy numerous connections. On one level Blair was held responsible for near misses over Detroit and in Times Square, as well as the fatal Fort Hood shooting. Two of these attacks trace back to Yemen’s al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) even though neither individual was of Yemeni descent. These are the types of reasons why Yemenis believe that AQAP has been nurtured in their country by Ali Abdullah Saleh, Washington and Riyadh.
In the end Blair was reportedly “fired” because of a French scandal, not his view on drones. After barraging Yemen with drones and cruise missiles in response to 2009’s attempted Christmas bombing, he should know from experience how to alienate a populace. He left his position only days after an errant drone strike killed the deputy governor of Marib province, putting drone flights on hold until Yemen's revolution began. Blair’s testimony “shines” as the “voice of reason” among a fresh pile of AQ-related news and threats, including the just-retired director of the National Counterterrorism Center.
Speaking a day before Blair, Mike Leiter told the Aspen Security Forum that, “the potential threat from al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula is very real... most likely simple forms of chemical or biological weapons.”
Leiter is sure to clarify that these attacks will spread fear more than death, then proceeds to spread that very fear for them. Both of their statements are caught up in the grander game being played by the Obama administration, and Blair’s remarks have already spun away from their original meaning. For instance, White House spokesman Jay Carney was asked whether, “unilateral drone attacks in Pakistan actually did more harm to U.S. national security interests than good, and he called for I believe a stronger partnership with Pakistan. Does the White House have an opinion about these remarks?”
“Well, without addressing specific methods, I would say simply that we believe our relationship with Pakistan is essential to fighting terrorism and terrorists, fighting al Qaeda. And that’s why we work hard on that relationship even though it is complicated and difficult at times. We also make no apologies for the need to go after terrorists, members of al Qaeda, wherever they are. And that is certainly true about the mission to eliminate Osama bin Laden. And I think that -- I understand that that creates tension. And we have -- we engage with the Pakistanis to discuss these issues all the time. But the relationship is important and, obviously, fighting terrorism is important.”
Never is Yemen or Somalia brought up by the reporter or Carney, and Blair’s words dissolve into the rapid current of U.S. debt.
Washington’s spin machine doesn’t favor a sincere debate on unilateral military operations in al-Qaeda’s remaining havens, whether Special Forces/CIA trainers or Reapers. The system pumps out an artificial conversation to deceive and confuse the masses. Yemen resides at the very bottom of U.S. consciousness, and its revolution hasn’t been addressed by the White House or State Department in weeks. It is controlled solely by the Pentagon and CIA - Yemen and Somalia’s “secret” drone bases remain taboo subjects in the White House. The Obama administration is missing a real opportunity to defeat al-Qaeda’s ideology, instead reinforcing America’s militaristic double-standard in the Middle East.
These discussions would make for a true debate, instead of muzzled, off-key droning at an Obama-friendly think-tank.